Whether your startup will be successful depends largely on what you, the founder, are willing to do to kickstart your company’s sales early on in your company’s lifecycle.
One of Pinterest’s co-founders used to walk around Apple stores and set homepages to Pinterest to acquire their first users. But you don’t have to be so extreme.
I want to give you an easier strategy to get your first clients for your startup.
Get first clients from your network
A startup’s early stages is a time when you can do things that don’t scale. You don’t kickstart sales by starting a blog or organizing a SEM campaign, because you have no time to waste. You need early adopters as fast as possible.
How do you get them?
Browse your closest network connections to look for people that might be interested in your solution. Approach them in person, on social media or cold email and schedule customer interviews. Treat those interviews as an opportunity to validate:
- The problem you’re trying to solve (asking about the pains)
- The solution (offer several variations if possible)
- If it’s sellable (put a price on it and ask if they’d be willing to pay)
I recommend starting with 20 customer interviews. That’s what I did at the beginning of RightHello, and from that group I got my first 4 clients.
If your network search isn’t successful (or if you want to talk to more people), try approaching people at conferences.
If you do it wrong, it’s a shot in the dark. Take your time to pick the right events and it will become an interesting test to define the best type of customers for your business.
The good thing is, you might be able to perform customer interviews at the event, without even having to schedule additional meetings.
Always ask for referrals. Most people will know others that will be interested in your solution.
If these tasks seem like the cherry on top of your already extremely busy life, it might help you to know how I managed my schedule when I was doing it. I booked a day of each week for sales activities only (connecting with people, following up, setting up appointments).
The rest of the week, I tried to get at least 1 appointment or call each day. It was just enough for me to stay on top of everything else happening in my company and still kickstart sales effectively.
Close feedback loop
The value of your first clients isn’t how much they pay you, but the information they give you. Your first clients are like a streaming service of invaluable feedback.
Information that they provide will give you a solid background of how customers view your solution, how they really use it and what you can do to improve it. It will help you define what you should focus on in product development.
In short, it’ll help you make something that your clients love. Keep a close feedback loop with your first customers, and remember that for them to tell you what you need, you have to overdeliver and give them all the value you can.
Revenue starts flowing in
And as revenue starts flowing in and you get more clients, you should start considering the next steps to building your sales process. What I did was get a co-founder that had big sales experience, which was the start of our now 6-people strong sales team.
Don’t sit around. Kickstart your company’s sales to get your first clients and get the intel you need to put product development on the right track from the start.